Our grand anniversary adventure

It was our wedding anniversary at the weekend, and with nothing organised it seemed like a good idea to go away for the night to celebrate.

We had left it to the last minute to book, and so most of Ireland’s best hotels were fully booked. But here was this one particular hotel in Mullingar, Westmeath, that had availability – and more to the point, it bore the same name as us – the Bloomfield House Hotel.

The decision to go seemed obvious, if a little contrived. Our grand adventure would be for the Bloomfields to stay at Bloomfield House, and it would would be glamorous and hilarious – well that was the plan.

Sadly the Bloomfield House Hotel didn’t quite live up to its advertised 4-star billing, and our visit wasn’t nearly as glamorous and hilarious as we first imagined.

The hotel itself is the product of various expansions and extensions over time, and as such the layout is somewhat haphazard. To get to our room from reception, we needed to head along a corridor, through the entire length of the bar (dragging our suitcases behind us), passed the queue for the carvery, through a couple of doors, down a ramp, and then up the slowest lift on the planet.

The room itself was… OK… but quite dated. The food was… OK… but the chef clearly didn’t know how to cook a steak properly. The bed was uncomfortable. The hotel was over-run with noisy children who never seemed to go to bed (which admittedly is not the fault of the hotel). The adjoining door to the next room was paper-thin – so much so that we could hear what they were watching on TV. And the wifi? Oh My God – I’ve never used something so unreliable and slow.

All of which meant that our grand adventure wasn’t that grand, or glamorous, or hilarious after all.

But still, we managed to have a nice anniversary.

I’m just glad we didn’t book for the second night!

Passengers on flights from the UK still have to go through Passport Control in Dublin Airport

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home on a flight from Edinburgh, and had to queue for 25 minutes at Passport Control in Dublin Airport. When I fly the other way, into the UK from Ireland, there’s no passport checks when I arrive. So why am I forced to go through Passport Control in Dublin?

Ireland and the UK have what is called a “common travel area” that is meant to allow people to travel freely between the two countries without having to show their passport – and includes everyone travelling between Ireland and Britain, and Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately in 1997 the Irish government changed the law so that the rule about not requiring passengers to present a passport only applies to Irish and British citizens. People from other countries (including other EU nationals) are required to present their passport when arriving in Ireland.

And because a flight or ferry from the UK will probably include people who are not Irish or British, then everyone has to be checked when they arrive.

And although all passengers have to go through Passport Control, if you are Irish or British you don’t actually need to show your passport. Your only requirement is to satisfy the Immigration Officers (who are members of the Garda Síochána) that you have travelled from within the common travel area (your boarding card should suffice) and that you are an Irish or British citizen.

Of course, the easiest way to prove you a Irish or British citizen is to show your passport! But according to the citizen’s information you just need to show any form of photographic ID to prove who you are, such as a driver’s licence, bus pass, or work ID. However none of these other forms of photographic ID show your nationality, so I don’t know how that’s supposed to work.

Chester Singing Week

Photo of Chester Cathedral, taken by DeathwavesTomorrow lunchtime I’m due to catch a plane over to England, to join a group called the Rivelin Singers in a singing week in Chester Cathedral. We are singing all the daily services throughout the week; deputising for the cathedral choir, who are on their summer break.
I’ve never sung with this particular group before, but I know the choir’s director Fraser Wilson very well. He’s a former organ scholar of Christ Church, and is now the Director of Music at St Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin.
The pattern of the week seems to be a morning of rehearsals, then some time off after lunch, a final rehearsal in the cathedral, and then Evensong. We then have our evenings spare to explore and enjoy Chester’s night-life. As such, it seems to be a similar format to the RSCM summer courses I used to attend.
Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to my trip away. The Christ Church Cathedral choir have been on holiday for 3 weeks now, and I’ve been missing the opportunity to sing on a regular basis.

We’re all going on a…

Yesterday was the end of term, and the cathedral choir are now on summer holiday for the next 8 weeks.

Not that it feels like summer. It’s been throwing it down with rain for weeks on end, and it’s also unseasonably cold and windy. And there appears to be little sign of an improvement in weather conditions in the near future.

But weather aside, it’s good to know that we have some time off from our singing duties. I can reclaim my weekends, and do all the jobs I’ve been putting off over the last term. Although, having said that, I’m just as likely to miss the singing as well. During the recent half-term break, I ended up getting very bored, and I only had to survive a week without music.

It doesn’t help, as well, that almost my entire social life seems to revolve around the choir people. And without them, I would appear to be a bit of a ‘Billy no-mates’. So I can only hope that at least some of them are going to stick around in the city over the summer.

A few folk – sadly – will not be around, as they’re leaving the choir to go on and do bigger and better things. And we took the opportunity to say goodbye to them after evensong yesterday. The director of music made a bit of a speech, leaving presents were handed out, and quite a lot of alcohol was consumed.

Of course, come the start of next year in September, we’ll be welcoming a bunch of new people to replace the folk that left: a new organ scholar, and various different singers. One much-heralded arrival, however, looks like it might not happen. Rumour has it that one of our new tenors may have received a ‘better offer’ and is currently trying to back out of his contract. Which would be a shame, as we were all rather looking forward to having a full-strength tenor line again.

Even so, the choir still has many exciting things to look forward to at the start of next term, including two live BBC broadcasts, three concerts, a combined service with another cathedral choir, and three carol services just before Christmas. It’s going to be a fun term. Can’t wait!